Elegant and easily enjoyable Gravlax with traditional flavors of caraway, fennel and juniper.Jump to Recipe
Few dishes are so associated with Sweden and Swedish cooking as gravlax. It is a simple yet elegant fish preparation enjoyed in many ways and is an integral part of the Julbord Christmas dinner, Smörgåsbord, as well as Midsommar celebrations. The name of the dish itself comes from the Swedish word meaning “to bury”, as the original gravlax was simply salted fish buried in the ground to ferment before being eaten. Over time, more palate-friendly versions emerged using aromatics and botanicals like white pepper and dill, with sugar and salt for the cure. My Aquavit Cured Gravlax with Caraway, Fennel and Juniper embraces traditional preparation and flavors with added intensity from the botanical-heavy Aquavit.
Begin with really good quality salmon (or trout–I have used both!) King or Sockeye salmon from a good source is best, and the fresher the better!! Do not use previously-frozen products, as it will make a huge difference in the texture of the fish. Make sure your filets are skin-on and at least 1-pound in weight (you will need two of them to sandwich together). Mix together the sugar, salt, fennel, caraway and juniper in a mortar or heavy bowl and crush the seeds slightly with a pestle or other heavy object. The salt and sugar break down the fibers in the flesh so the salmon is cooked cold, bringing out its delicate flavor. The result is a perfect balance of salt, sweetness and the smooth rich taste of salmon.
Rinse the fish filets and pat dry. Place one filet skin-side-down in a glass baking dish and pack on some of the cure mixture.
Add some fresh dill and cover with the flesh side of the other filet.
Top the skin side of this filet with the remaining cure mix, being sure to pat it all around the sides of the fish, as well.
Sprinkle on about a tablespoon of aquavit.
I prefer to use the Norden brand which you can learn more about here. Gin is also a delicious alternative.
Wrap the dish tightly with plastic and place a heavy weight on top. This will help press extra liquid out of the flesh. Here I am using a heavy cast-iron tortilla press.
Refrigerate for 12 hours, then unwrap the fish and flip the “sandwich” over.
Baste all sides with the brine developing in the pan and sprinkle with another tablespoon of aquavit.
Repeat the entire process again in 12 hours and keep things going for at least 48-72 hours (just don’t use more than 1/4 cup alcohol for sprinkling).
Finally, unwrap the fish, discard the dill and rinse the filets under cold water and pat dry. Place the new gravlax skin-side-down on a cutting board and use a long, sharp knife to slice against the grain on the diagonal into thin pieces. Serve on a platter with lemon wedges, Sweet Mustard Sauce, fennel, eggs and capers or use in Salmon Smörgås.
Aquavit Cured Gravlax with Caraway, Fennel and Juniper
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon ground white or black pepper
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
- 1 teaspoon dried juniper berries
- 2 1-pound salmon or trout filets, skin on
- 1 cup fresh dill springs
- ¼ cup aquavit or gin
- Mix together sugar, salt, pepper, fennel, caraway and juniper in a mortar or heavy bowl and grind slightly with a pestle or other heavy object; set aside.
- Rinse fish filets in cold water and pat dry with paper towel. Lay one filet skin-side-down in a glass baking dish. Rub and pack some of the sugar mix on both sides.
- Lay the fresh dill on the flesh side of the filet. Cover the other filet flesh side with the sugar mix and put on the first filet like a sandwich.
- Top the skin side of the second filet with remaining sugar mix, being sure to also coat the edges of the fish.
- Sprinkle on about a tablespoon of the aquavit or gin and wrap the entire dish tightly with plastic. Put a heavy weight on top and refrigerate for 12 hours.
- Unwrap and flip the fish “sandwich” over. Baste all sides with the brine that is developing in the pan and sprinkle with another tablespoon of gin.
- Wrap, weight and refrigerate and repeat the entire process again in 12 hours. Keep this going for at least 48-72 hours (but don’t use more than the ¼ cup of alcohol for sprinkling).
- Unwrap the fish, discard the dill and rinse the filets under cold water and pat dry with paper towel.
- Place the gravlax skin side down on a cutting board. With a long, very sharp bladed knife, slice gravlax against the grain on the diagonal into thin pieces.
- Refrigerate any remaining gravlax, wrapped in plastic, for up to 2 weeks.
Tips for Success:
- Use the freshest salmon or trout possible from a reputable source for best results. Do not use previously frozen fish! This will result in a “mushy” texture.
- Aquavit or gin may be used in the curing process. As with the fish, use a very high quality spirit. What you put in is what you get out!
- Serve the gravlax with Sweet Mustard Sauce, thinly sliced fresh fennel, capers, hard boiled eggs, lemon wedges or greens as part of a festive buffet.